At first Nicola’s accent threw me off, I thought I was here to interview a South African designer, why does she sound American? She explains her background and like a slow tetris game, everything falls into place. The fashion designer was born in South Africa but attended high school in the U.S of A. In fact, her love for fashion was born there as she longed for unique clothing and would frequent second hand clothing stores to satisfy this hunger.
On her return to South Africa, a career in fashion was never an option because of her family’s situation. Working around, West never stayed at one job for long as she continued looking for her passion. She recalls a visit to her boyfriend’s mom’s studio, the acclaimed designer Stefania Morland, where she assisted customers with making choices. This experience reignited her love for fashion as Morland saw potential in the young West who then worked there for the next five years. In that time, West started making her own designs but only once she established her own personal style, did she leave Stefania and open a store alongside Shana Morland (Stefania’s daughter). The store has been open since 2010 and stocks both designers’ unique collections.
Four years down the line, Nicola, under the labels name W35T, showcased a spring/summer collection at Cape Town Fashion Week 2014. The range which was described by some as poolside chic was actually inspired by the 30s, 40s and 50s with a big focus on feminine and confident woman. West said this was a time in history when woman were claiming their space in society, a time when strong was sexy. Relating to this feeling West wanted to create a collection she would wear herself, featuring comfy and cool pieces. Easy to throw on and looking cool without trying too hard was behind the fit of the garments. Overall, the collection was received well by most and is sure to do well in the warmer months.
At the heart of fashion is creativity and in a time when some might be questioning whether designers are still creating for this purpose, Nicola reasserts this notion. The free-spirited designer finally feels that she is doing what she is supposed to do and is pushing others to do the same – to continuously push to find your passion and do what you love. She believes it’s okay to be different, in fact it’s better to be different and her clothes reflect this.